Isle of Palms & Charleston SC 2012

Another city on the list of must-see East Coast cities while we live here is Charleston. We drove down March 21, 2012.

I was finally able to get a shot of the South Carolina welcome sign!

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We randomly took an exit to swap drivers and the wisteria was in full bloom.

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The restaurant we had dinner at in Isle of Palms was right on the water front and we timed it just right so that we could see the sunset. As I waited, I couldn’t help but watch and take tons of pictures of the pelicans, they’re such cool birds!

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The next day we headed into Charleston and drove over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, aka the New Cooper River Bridge (both are rather boring names but the bridge itself is a really interesting structure).

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 Our first excursion in Charleston was a boat tour around the harbor. One of the sights was Fort Sumter, the site at which the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

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It is said that in times of war, soldiers look to the flag for strength and courage. The flags currently flying at Fort Sumter represent those that flew during the Civil War (plus the current one). Included are the (current) American flag, 33-star US flag, 35-star US flag, Stars and Bars flag, Stainless Banner and the South Carolina State flag.

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We also learned about the numerous pirates that used to sail the waters, passed by the USS Yorktown and under the bridge.

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And there were dolphins!!!

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Speaking of dolphins, the South Carolina Aquarium was just down the street so we of course had to stop for a visit!

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For a smaller sized aquarium, they had some very impressive things to see. In fact, most of the exhibits they had I had never seen in an aquarium.

Like the albino alligator.

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Or this particular species of jellyfish.

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They also had an outdoor aviary that I can’t remember ever seeing at an aquarium before.

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Pay no attention to these crazy animals ;-)

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The next morning I woke up early and watched the sunrise. I was actually so engrossed with shelling that I almost missed it.

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As many beaches as I’ve walked on in my life, I had never found a whole, unbroken sand dollar. Every walk I take along the beach I think that that walk will be the magical one. This one was that walk. I found my first sand dollar in Isle of Palms! I not only found one, but four that morning! And a ton of other whole or mostly whole shells! This was not only the biggest score (in size), but in quantity that I’ve collected in one walk, ever!

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After breakfast we drove around some of the beach front mansions around the hotel. When I win the lottery, this (or one very similar to it), will be my new home.

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After that we drove into Charleston for our horse-drawn (or in our case donkey-drawn), carriage tour. We rode past Rainbow Row (East Bay Street), named so because of the colors used to paint the houses. One myth as to the purpose of using such colors was so that the drunken sailors coming into port would know which house they were staying in. Makes sense.

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It was really nice to see that the carriage doors and paths had been preserved.

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Another interesting little tidbit to learn about and see was the side porch on many of the homes. The lots were very narrow so, mostly out of necessity, the porches were built on the side. But they allowed the oceans breezes to come through on those hot, humid summer afternoons.

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All of the houses were very well maintained and manicured!

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Among many other things, Charleston is known for its Sweetgrass Basket makers. This art form has been passed down from generation to generation for over 400 years. Some of the larger baskets can go for over a thousand dollars.

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I bought a much smaller one ;-) And yes, that is a small sample of my magical shell bounty.

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After the carriage ride, we walked around the City Market and looked at the various vendors before dinner.

Out of the handful of southern east coast beach/water front towns I’ve been to, I think I Charleston is my favorite. I would love to go back and explore more of the sites, streets and houses of that extremely intriguing and colorful city.

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Hilton Head, SC & Savannah, GA 2011

We drove down to Hilton Head from Richmond on October 19, 2011. The drive down was nice, but uneventful. We stayed at the Marriott Grande Ocean Resort and would highly recommend it ;-) We put our bags down in our suite and then immediately headed to the beach!

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The next day we drove into Georgia to take a trolley tour around Savannah. We didn’t ride on a horse-drawn tour, but we passed several in our gas-powered trolley ;-)

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I love the Spanish Moss! Our tour guide instructed us that if we chose to take some home with us, to make sure we stored it in an air-tight container and if our hotel room had a microwave to zap it in order to kill the parasites (mites and chiggers!!!) because they WOULD come home with us if we weren’t careful. We passed on harvesting any and just took lots of pictures of it.

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Many of the sites on the tour included the many squares and plazas in the city. Such beautiful trees!

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Another site on the tour was The Waving Girl statue. The statue is a depiction of Florence Martus who would welcome ships by waving her handkerchief. She continued the tradition for 44 years!

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Our guide pointed out a poor try at a drain shaped like a dolphin. Looks more like a funny fish than a dolphin to me.

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The ironwork in Savannah is astonishing and is incorporated into just about every house!

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This house is apparently an eye-sore to the neighbors, but I like it! There’s nothing wrong with purple!

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Several of the historical houses offered tours, but by the time we finished ours, we only had about an hour to kill before our dinner reservations. We ended up walking around the river front stores, maybe we can visit some of the houses next time around.

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One of my traditions of vacationing at the beach is to wake up early, at least one of the days, and watch the sunrise. There’s nothing like starting the day watching the sun peek out of the waves and warm up the earth. Can’t seem to rouse myself to do that at home, so I always try to at the beach (not a morning person!).

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It was a short trip, but was on the list of East Coast cities to visit while we’re living on this coast ;-)